Thagard ‘a friend to everyone’

Published 7:24 pm Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Last week, the community lost a longtime Camellia City businessman and civic leader, a man remembered as generous and caring by those who knew him best.

William James Thagard, 73, better known to one and all by his nickname “Bo,” died last Thursday, January 4, at a hospital in Montgomery.  On Sunday afternoon, family and friends gathered to see him laid to rest in the cemetery of the house of worship where he’d been active for more than 60 years, St. Paul Methodist Church.

One of those present to bid him a final farewell was Natalie Tindal, manager of Manpower in Greenville and a member of the Greenville Lions Club with Thagard.

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“Bo joined our club back in June 2002,”  Tindal said, “And he was a real asset to the Lions. He has served as our club director and was always very involved with club events.”

Tindal remembers Thagard as a “sweet, caring and humble” man, one who was always willing to serve wherever or however he was needed.

April Gregory, marketing coordinator for Greenville Newspapers, also served alongside Thagard in the local civic organization.

“Bo was the first person to welcome me into the Lions Club,” said Gregory. “The club and the community have lost a wonderful, caring soul.”

Gregory fondly recalls Thagard’s genial nature and keen sense of humor.

“Bo and Pete Tutchtone always managed to keep our meetings light-hearted and fun. We are certainly going to miss that.”

Tindal agrees. “We definitely missed him at Monday’s meeting . . . it’s a loss that will continue to be felt by our entire club.”

Thagard also served on the advisory board of First National Bank, the Butler County ASC Board and was a member of the Alabama Automotive Association.

A Greenville High and John Patterson State Technical School graduate, Thagard operated a working farm for a number of years before going into business in the Camellia City in the early ‘80s. 

He partnered with Billy Foster to open the first Camellia Auto Parts, originally located in the old Lewis Automotive building near the courthouse. Eventually Foster decided to sell his share of the business to Thagard. He relocated the business in 1986 to the former Fox Chevrolet building, where he continued to offer auto repair service along with auto parts and used cars.  Camellia Auto Parts became Thagard’s home away from home, where customers would  often find him at his desk, ready to help with their automotive needs or to enjoy a friendly chat.

“Daddy really did love farming—he loved his tractor and the cows, but it just got too hard to make a living,” explained his daughter, Leah Moses. “He’d also been doing mechanic work for family and friends for years on the side. It was something he really did enjoy, so when he was able to go into the auto business, he did.”

In addition to his auto parts business, Thagard owned and operated Butler County Motor Sports Park for several years, giving dirt track enthusiasts across the region along their friends and family a chance to have fun.  He also enjoyed the collection of antique autos that he had lovingly restored. Thagard and his wife of 54 years, Janice, would often drive one of those vintage vehicles in antique car shows across the southeastern U.S.

Moses recalls her dad as a man who dearly loved his entire family and took great pride and pleasure in spoiling all his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren; a man who was “generous to a fault.”

“Daddy always tried to help people out. I knew him to loan people money even before they paid him back for an earlier loan,” Moses said. “He really tried to be a friend to everyone who needed one.”

His daughter also found her father to be a great sounding board when she needed advice.

“I never had a problem that he couldn’t help me solve. If I didn’t know which way to go, he would help me,” Moses said.

“He didn’t always point me in the direction I would have chosen, but his advice was always good. And that is something I really am going to miss. You never outgrow your need for your parents.”

At Thagard’s visitation prior to the graveside services, the impact he had made on the community was evident, as a very long line of people wrapped around the funeral home waiting to enter and share their condolences with his family, along with their good memories of a man who will certainly be missed.

“They actually had to shut the doors on the line and send the folks outside on to the graveside services, and I’ve never seen them do that before. To me, that is as nice a thing as you can say about a man,” said Moses.

In lieu of flowers, the family have requested donations may be sent to the St. Paul Cemetery Fund, c/o Rosa Tanner, 5344 Luverne Highway, Greenville, AL 36037.